As a mature student you will have a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience, sometimes developed in a variety of contexts. But how can you make sure you communicate these clearly and effectively to potential employers? Here's a few quick tips:
Tip 1 # Think broadly about your experience
Employers value skills developed in a range of contexts, so think as broadly as you can about your experience and how you can use the different aspects of your life to showcase the skills employers are looking for. As a mature student you may have a wide range of work experience, but also involvement in voluntary activities, societies, committees, campaigns, as well as the skills you develop through parenting and caring responsibilities. Focus on skills and behaviours as well as duties and activities; running a busy household can be a great way to demonstrate your time management and prioritisation skills.
Tip 2 # Be positive about your experience
Don't undersell or underestimate your experience. Just because a particular job or activity was short, a long time ago or doesn't instantly appear relevant to the career pathway you're currently pursuing doesn't mean that you didn't gain any valuable skills or experience from it. When reflecting on the things that you've done, highlight your achievements and the things you're proud of, and your personal contributions to team projects. Negative experiences can often be ref-framed to demonstrate resilience and what you've learned from them. For more on how to express yourself positively in CVs, applications and cover letters, see my blog post on How to Sell yourself and feel ok about it.
Tip 3 # Demonstrate how your skills, knowledge and experience meet an employer's needs
Marketing yourself effectively means providing clear evidence to show how you meet the employer's criteria. As noted above, reflect on all of your experience, and use this to provide clear, concrete examples of what the employer is looking for. Match your language to the employer's needs. If you're changing direction from previous career paths, emphasise the relevant points and transferable skills from your previous experience. Avoid industry-specific jargon and overly technical language that won't resonate with your target employer. You may not need to include all of your experience on your CV; as a general principle, keep it to what's most relevant and most recent. Similar roles can be grouped together on your CV to avoid repetition. A skills-based CV, where you organise your experience under the headings of the skills needed for the job, can be a great way to showcase your relevant skills if you've had a varied career path or have the skills for your target job but not any directly relevant experience. Our Application, CV and Cover Letter Guide has some examples of skills-based CVs and how to put together an effective CV if you're changing career direction. See also this useful Guardian article on writing a CV for career change, and these sample CVs for mature students from Oxford Brookes University and The Open University.
Tip 4 # Make the most of your time at university
Getting involved in extra-curricular activities or volunteering during your course can be a great way to boost your confidence and get to know new people as well as build up a portfolio of evidence for CVs and applications.
Tip 5 # Show genuine motivation for your next career move
Employers want to see that you've really thought about why you want to do the job you're applying for and why you want to work for them. This takes thorough research into potential employers and job roles, and also careful thinking about yourself and what's important to you in your next job. Checking out our web pages on researching employers and occupational research, and the Choose a Career section of our website, will help you to think through and research all of these. You can also book an appointment to speak to a Careers Adviser.